Tag Archives: closing

Juvenile Offenders ‘Piling Up’ in Counties Due to Taft Closing?

State efforts to close down Taft Youth Development Center and transfer some of Tennessee’s toughest teen offenders to other state facilities are creating a flow of delinquents into some county lockups, reports Andy Sher.
“All I’m hearing is the detention centers are holding them until there’s an opening [at state facilities] and it’s piling up and bottlenecking,” said Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, who was among area lawmakers opposed to closing the 95-year-old center in Bledsoe County.
Department of Children’s Services spokeswoman Molly Sudderth denied in an email that there are problems related to shuttering Taft. It houses offenders ages 16 to 19 with at least three prior felony convictions, or those convicted of violent crimes or who have proven difficult to manage in other state facilities.
“We aim to place all Youth Development Center-eligible youth within 30 days of their commitment,” Sudderth said in the email. “On June 14, 2012, the average length of stay for a youth waiting in detention before being placed in a Youth Development Center was 14 days.”
A year ago, it was 22 days, she said. Area lawmakers also pointed out that the final closure has been delayed from July 1, the start of the new budget year, to July 13. But Sudderth said, “We would argue that there is no delay.”
…Richard Bean, superintendent of Knox County’s Richard L. Bean Juvenile Detention Center, said the state has been sending more teens there since Taft’s closure began. The state contracts with Knox County to hold delinquent juveniles.
“We had very few state kids, three or four [before]; you stay a few days,” Bean said Friday. “We’ve been running 30 a day … but we’re down now to 22 state kids. They don’t have anywhere to put the kids.”
He noted that many counties, including Hamilton, don’t contract with the state. In his immediate area, he said, “we’re the only guy in town.”
“They call and say, ‘Can you hold this kid until we find him a bed” either in a detention center or a foster home or group home. “As soon as they have an opening, they come get them.”
Bean said the state pays $132.88 per day per teen, but he doesn’t want to take in more than 25 at a time.
“They’re sending the good ones to someone else and the mean ones to me,” he said.
Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge Betty Adams Green said Saturday that it’s taking longer for state officials to pick up some of the teens she sentences.
“They’re staying a long time,” said Green, who was commissioner of the Department of Youth Development, DCS’ predecessor, back in the 1990s.
Green said two teens she knows of are “well beyond 30 days.” She didn’t know if they are headed for a youth center or other care, but said if the state is prioritizing those destined for the centers, “what about the ones who aren’t getting out because the others are getting preference?”

Commissioner Faces Questioning Over Taft Closing

(Note: Updates, expands and replaces earlier post)
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s call for providing the most efficient services at the lowest cost ran into a wall of criticism Wednesday from members of his own party over his plans to shut down Taft Youth Development Center. Andy Sher reports:
A bipartisan group of Government Operations Committee members focused their ire on Children’s Services Commissioner Kathryn O’Day, forcing her to defend her recommendations to Haslam for an hour.
Watching was an overflow crowd of Taft employees and top officials from Bledsoe County, where Taft is located, and Cumberland County.
O’Day maintained Taft deserves closure because it is the most costly of the five state prisons for young criminals.
She said closing Taft will result in an $8.5 million annual reduction in “unnecessary overhead we’re carrying.” That translates into about $4.4 million in actual savings because the money will be spent elsewhere within the department.
“The system on its best day today operates at 69 percent occupancy,” O’Day said. “In my previous career I was a private provider and residential services, and I can tell you that with a 69 percent occupancy rate I would have been out of business in very short order.”
Overall occupancy rates would improve by closing the 96-bed Taft to 87 percent, she said. She said she still couldn’t have operated on such an occupancy rate. O’Day also pointed out Taft is the oldest center.
Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, in whose district Taft sits, disputed cost savings. Taft and its estimated 169 employees guard over some of the oldest, most dangerous teen criminals, including gang members, Sexton said.
“With the closing of Taft there is concerns about putting these 17 1/2-year-old kids in with kids in another facility who are 14 and 15, and what’s going to happen to them?” Sexton said. “And what’s going to have to happen is the department is going to have to be held accountable.”
O’Day said the younger offenders would be separated in the three other male centers.

Knox Commission Opposing Lakeshore Closing

The Knox County Commission has decided to ask a number of state leaders, including Gov. Bill Haslam, to delay closing Lakeshore Mental Health Institute for at least two years, reports the News Sentinel. They also agreed to seek a meeting with Mental Health Commissioner Douglas Varney, who some said has not returned their calls..
The commissioners unanimously backed the proposal at Monday’s work session, with an official vote to come next week.
Officials said they are concerned the community doesn’t have enough programs to serve many of the patients who end up at Lakeshore. They also said they expect a rise of mentally ill in the homeless and jailed populations if Lakeshore closes.
State Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, commended the commission and said he’d look into what could be done. He said a complete shutdown could create an “additional burden and additional costs” to city and county coffers.
Meanwhile, the commission also agreed to send a letter to the local legislative delegation requesting that members oppose any proposed changes that would weaken the state’s Open Meetings Act. They’ll further discuss the measure during next Monday’s regular meeting.

Closing Lakeshore = Kicking and Screaming All the Way?

If Lakeshore Mental Health Institute closes, it won’t close quietly, says the News Sentinel.
“I will kick and scream all the way to the end,” Knox County Commissioner Jeff Ownby told a group of about 150 people Wednesday evening at West High School.
Ownby, whose wife and sister-in-law are longtime Lakeshore employees, called the forum to let local elected officials “hear the concerns” of Lakeshore employees, family members of patients, advocates and “concerned citizens.” About 10 other city, county and state elected officials attended, though only state Sen. Stacey Campfield and County Commissioner Amy Broyles spoke, both encouraging people to share concerns with Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Mental Health Commissioner Douglas Varney.
Varney announced Nov. 11 that he wants to close the aging mental health institute by the end of the fiscal year, as part of a plan to outsource mental health care to private inpatient facilities and community-based program.

State to Close Lakeshore Mental Health Institute

From the News Sentinel:
Tennessee Department of Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney has announced that closure of Lakeshore Mental Health Institute on June 30, 2012, is part of plans for changing mental health in Tennessee.
Varney said community services will be expanded by leveraging three existing contracts with private psychiatric mental-health providers in East Tennessee: Covenant Health (Peninsula, a division of Parkwest Medical Center); Mountain States Health Alliance (Woodridge Hospital of Johnson City), and Ridgeview Community Mental Health Services of Oak Ridge.
“Moving these mental health services into the community where our patients live allows them to start the process of recovery near family, friends and local community mental health support services,” Varney said in a statement. “Our intent is to promote care that is of the highest quality and delivered in the most efficient and effective way. We believe this new model accomplishes those goals.”
Varney said the changes are part of a national trend to close state facilities, owning to improved medications, shifts in public policy and studies that show community-based services have better outcomes. He said Peninsula, Woodridge and Ridgeview “have been serving this population effectively, efficiently and successfully through the current contracting process and are committed to begin accepting new admissions.”

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